1. e4 e5 Part 1


Note: This is a guest post by mastertan.

Note #2: These blog posts will be posted every Saturday (3 more).

1. e4 e5 lines are some of the most complex and unpredictable lines to play in bughouse and are a great choice when playing against equal or stronger opponents. The outcome depends a lot on the player’s skill to

  • Analyze piece flow
  • Communicate
  • Play/think fast
  • Respond to aggressive attacks and sacrifices
  • Retaliate with a counterattack
  • Recognize positional advantages/disadvantages
  • Identify mate threats

And, as always, lots of “luck” is required!

The best way to learn these lines is of course to try them out many times, but also to watch strong players playing them, and try to understand how they respond in different situations.

I will cover some of the most commonly played positions and provide some ideas behind the moves.

The 4. Bc4 Bc5 Symmetrical Opening

  • Introductory Moves in the Opening
  • @h6
  • Bg5
  • Nd5

Introductory Moves in the Opening

This is a completely symmetrical opening where at this point, the game seems to be completely equal and balanced.

It is White’s turn to move, and there is a question to ask here, “Should White sacrifice on f7 and attack?”

If a Q is coming, then yes.

If a couple of minor pieces and pawns are coming, then yes/maybe.

There are a few move possibilities for White here.

5. O-O

There is some debate on whether lower rated players should castle/not castle in bughouse; for more information, you can check out my previous blog posts: https://www.chess.com/blog/Sorsi/bughouse-survival-tactics. Castling here prevents the bishop sac threats, and puts the king on the side of the board where it is less prone to getting attacked by the pieces in the center, so it is a very reasonable move under the circumstances.

5. d3

A natural move. White must still be wary that Black can sac on f2 at this point, and he or she needs to double check if Q/heavy trades are coming.

5. d4

A gambit-style move that quickly activates the bishop on c1. This tempo move is particularly useful if there is heavy flow. If Black recaptures the pawn, White can attack aggressively with 6. Bxf7+ and 6. @h6.

And now for the bughouse moves (piece drops) which create more complexity on the board:

5. @e3

This move prevents the Bxf2 sac and prepares for the move d4. This is a solid move if you have a pawn in hand and if there are lots of trades coming.

5. B@h4

This is always a useful resource – a move that attacks and defends. It pins the knight on f6, and also provides protection to f2. There is less need to castle after this move.

These piece drops can be played similarly with Black as well (@e6 and B@h5)

Here is a possible continuation of the opening– another symmetrical position with both kings castled and the moves d3 and d6 played.

This is a pretty difficult position to analyze – there are many possibilities, and many ways for both players to respond.

First up, both players need to be wary about whether heavy pieces are coming, and need to make sure that when those pieces come, it is on their turn.

7. @h6

@h6 is a common choice to increase dark square pressure and set up mate.

Here are a couple of matting patterns made possible by the @h6 move:

  • @h6 + Q@g7
  • @h6 + @g7 + Q/R@h8

Black can respond to @h6 with 7…gxh6 followed by 8…Ng4 (after 8. Bxh6) to reach the position below.

White’s bishop is now under attack.

A common way forward for White here is to capture the rook (9. Bxf8). After 9…Qxf8, however, Black’s position is now fine.

Instead of White capturing the rook with 9. Bxf8, another option for White is to defend the bishop with 9. @g5. This is slightly more troublesome for Black since it is harder to remove the queen and rook mating threats (Q@g7 or @g7 + Q/R@h8).

However, if no heavy pieces are coming, Black can look to try and achieve counterplay by capturing the bishop (9…Nxh6 10. gxh6).

Possibilities here include 10…N@f4, 10…@h3, 10…N@g4, and 10…B@g5.

Alternatively to 8…Ng4, Black can also play the speedier and riskier option of 8…@g7.

This encourages White to sacrifice the bishop for a pawn. This tends to be better for Black if there is very little/low piece flow.

Below is an example continuation (9. Bxg7 Kxg7 10. Qd2 Kh8).

 Black could later play either Rg8 for counterplay on the g-file or @g7 to consolidate.

Now, let’s go back to the original position with the castled kings.

There are a couple of other common move possibilities.

7. Bg5

One idea is to capture the knight, play Nd5, then follow up with c3 to prevent Black from playing Nd4 or N@d4.

7. Nd5

This uses the same idea as above – to prepare c3 to stop Black’s knight from going to d4 while still keeping the bishop on c1 to maintain @h6 threats.

There is also another common line that is played where Black responds to 7. Bg5 with 7…Bg4. I do not wish to discuss this much further since there are a lot of variables and a lot of unpredictability. Both sides are at quite a bit of risk.

There is one continuation here however that is worth mentioning, and that is what follows after White plays 8. Nd5. It is very natural for Black to give up the queen for a minor piece with 8…Nxd5! in exchange for lots of counterplay on the light squares.

Consider what happens after 9. Bxd8 Nf4:

Black has options such as N@e2 (followed by Bxf3), @e2, and @h3.

Silly things can still happen. Black still has to watch out a bit here to see whether the whole house will be coming. A knight, rook, queen and two pawns mate for White here (Can you figure out how?)! Though unlikely, it is still possible.

There are also similar opening variations when both kings are not castled, though there is a bit more risk because of the bishop sac threats.

I also want to point out that moving the h-pawn creates weaknesses around the king. For example: take the move h3 for White in the position below.

This prevents the move Bg4, but it can allow Black to target the dark squares with moves like @g3, @f4, Bxf2+, and N@g3.

Lots of luck!


This concludes our exploration of the Bc4/Bc5 symmetrical opening.